100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go by Marcia DeSanctis
Available Formats: Paperback, Ebook
Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a tour stop on the “100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go” virtual book tour through France Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the publisher Travelers’ Tales, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go
Told in a series of stylish, original essays, 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go is for the serious Francophile, for the woman dreaming of a trip to Paris, and for those who love crisp stories well-told. Like all great travel writing, this volume goes beyond the guidebook and offers insight not only about where to go but why to go there. Combining advice, memoir and meditations on the glories of traveling through France, this book is the must-have in your carry-on when flying to Paris.
Award-winning writer Marcia DeSanctis draws on years of travels and living in France to lead you through vineyards, architectural treasures, fabled gardens and contemplative hikes from Biarritz to Deauville, Antibes to the French Alps. These 100 entries capture art, history, food, fresh air and style and along the way, she tells the stories of fascinating women who changed the country’s destiny. Ride a white horse in the Camargue, find Paris’ hidden museums, try thalassotherapy in St. Malo, and buy raspberries at Nice’s Cour Saleya market. From sexy to literary, spiritual to simply gorgeous, 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go is an indispensable companion for the smart and curious traveler to France.
Places to find the book:
on 9th September, 2014
It isn’t everyday you have the pleasure of reading a travelogue writ in the style of a personal diary to the level where one woman’s peripheral intuitiveness lends a hand towards giving the reader a thread of insight that most travelogues do not typically yield. The format of this travelogue is one of the best I have come across due to the nature of how the list of 100 Places is formatted to be revealed. I am going to highlight my Top 5 sections as I want to give a sampling of the joy I experienced whilst reading this non-fiction account of Ms. DeSanctis’s travels within France.
She left such a strong impression on my heart as to eclipse the idea I haven’t yet travelled there myself by placing my mind inside her own shoes as she relates her own story as to create the feeling I was transported there whilst seeing everything she saw herself. To me that is the best part of reading travel fiction and travel non-fiction narratives; they allow us to employ the nature of what excites us as adventurers without necessarily needing to leave our home.
For most of us, travel in today’s world is cost prohibitive and/or we have to become more selective in our choices per year as to where we can afford to traverse. By picking up this guide of the 100 Places of whom gave the author an alarming connective tie to the countrymen and women of France, it will ignite a passion inside your own heart to either walk in her own footsteps or dare to sort out the parts of France that speak to your own spirit of taking an expeditionary route through this remarkably historic country.
Within the Introduction to this travelogue, we start to see the inklings of how DeSanctis first became enamored with France and not surprisingly there is a foodie connection to her passionate joy! I, for one, can fully understand how food can be a gateway into a country as for me it was India of which lent not only a curiosity of spirit for their culture and art (I maintain a healthy penchant for Bollywood films) but it was through the expressive nature of their spices and foods which translated directly into a passion for the people of the country. I can fully respect how a piece of bread (in the author’s case it was a croissant) can quite literally excite your senses for more exploration! (on my behalf it was naan!)
As she bespoke a curated passion for watching Audrey Hepburn movies (alongside Cary Grant) set in France, I smiled most readily because I completely concurred with her sentiments! Hepburn not only translated her characters as though she embodied their souls, but she had the formidable presence on screen to translate the setting and the scope of where the story was set. She redefined how to present a character and how to effectively endear to give a homage to where the character either lived or interacted. She is one of a kind in this regard, except to say I felt the same whilst watching Ingrid Bergman who was just ahead of her on the screen.
(The only difference between us, as I am a bit younger than the author, my “Sabrina” was not Ms. Hepburn but rather Julia Ormond — we blissfully walked away with the same appreciation for living a life where you do not allow your insecurities to interfere with your innermost dreams and desires.)
The way in which DeSanctis presents the allure of being in France is an insightful recollection of how we can lead full lives but have bits of who we are a bit absent as well. The country not only has a way of evoking a proper sense of history but an evocation of femininity and a re-definition of a well-lived life by not only having our senses fully exposed to the liveliness of a French life but to bring out anything that might have previously inhibitiously held us behind.
I found this element of an intangible difference in how life is lived within the film version of “The 100 Foot Journey” based on the novel I have not yet had the pleasure to read but of which exemplifies the same pursuit of not merely existing season to season but passionately living through sensory experience rooted in a connection to community, art, culture, and the interconnectedness of humanity. To intuitively thrive in the everyday hours whilst surrounding yourself in the places which enrich your mind, heart, and soul.
| Section One: #3 Homage to La Môme |
Music has always been a central focal point in my life as it has captured a piece of my own soul in such a way as to alleviate me out of stress or to cultivate an emotional response to a piece of instrumentation, vocalisation, symphony or score for motion picture in such a way as to transcend the moment in which the piece is heard. Music has a cadence of passion knitted into the chords, the harmonies, and the in-between moments that is especially unique to the artist who conceives the idea of what translates into an audio narrative of a story unspoken through words. Even when words are attached to the musical composition itself — they tell only half of the story which evolves through the instruments who accompany the voice.
[ it should be known I was listening to Programme #664 Dark Wisdom via Hearts of Space (hos.com) whilst composing this blog post — where string instruments evoked the gutting emotions of humanity. ]
Whilst reading her passages of appreciation on behalf of Edith Piaf, I started to conjure inside my own mind how beautifully dynamic this woman would have been on stage; how creatively evoking her voice would have spilt straight through my heart and soul whilst I would be seated in audience of her performance; and what a gift it would have been to witness her vocality first-hand. There have been a few times in my young life where I have been in the presence of a true performer of unexplained talent and grace, whose very voice was an instrument who could create music on a level that is not even able to be related in recollection through words; as most sensations of music are felt rather than spoken. Our thoughts and our impressions on music are on a completely different level of understanding than spoken dialogue (hence why music is being used to reach autistic children who otherwise cannot communicate).
Finding out there is a residential museum celebrating the life of the legendary and iconic singer made my heart sing with curiosity! I love finding tucked away museums which are housed in unexpected places, that take you on an internal journey back to the time and era the person lived. I always fancied visiting museums and other historic sites where only half the story of the person is known in the exhibits and the other half simply has to be felt by the person who visits the site with an open mind.
| Section Two: #5 The Patroness of Paris |
World religions and spirituality are two subjects I enjoy researching and expanding my mind towards further appreciation and understanding; therefore when I came across this passage dedicated to a woman whose very life affect so many Frenchmen,… I instinctively stopped to ponder the implications of what might have happened if her actions and presence had not been able to be present. I had a life-altering experience down in Mexico where I visited the Catholic Church in the Square — better known as “Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary of Mexico City” in Zócalo (the Square). Renowned as being the central hub for Tenochtitlan (an Aztec city I visited), it is more readily known in the modern era as Plaza de la Constitución. As soon as I entered the fallen building (as it was sinking due to the heaviness of the inlaid gold of the cathedral’s alter section) I felt connected to that particular place in a way that I never could put into words.
I experienced a connection to the cathedral and of the time in which I was there on a spiritual level, just after I had spoken to the workers who were below ground re-stablising the structure by placing in braces to lift the main floor of the cathedral in an attempt to prevent further damage from the sinking foundation. Right after I spoke to them (although how it was possible I know not, as I only spoke English to their Spanish), I had a conversation with the resident Priest whose intuition noticed how I felt in that place at that particular moment in time. I was thankful to have someone to speak to in English and felt an overwhelming measure of peace and spiritual connectiveness after I had left. No one in my group felt anything except the hot humidity and whose impatience to eat lunch rendered them indifferent to the artwork. I felt as though I had left the group and experienced everything in a different time altogether.
Due to my experience in Mexico and of hearing the recollections of my Mum’s journey through Europe whilst she visited different churches — I felt connected to this section due to how the best moments whilst your travelling are the ones you are not expecting to have alight on your path. Originally we were only meant to visit the Square itself but an opportunity opened to where we could go inside the Cathedral. Spontaneity has a way of sparking alive a memory out of time itself that lasts quite a bit longer than the expanse of time lived in that one particular place. I believe whole heartedly in following your instincts and listening to your inner intuitiveness when exploring a city as you will arrive somewhere that leaves an etching on your heart.
As I read about DeSanctis visiting this particular church in Paris, my mind wandered back to Mexico wherein I realised we had the same experience in two distinctly different cities.
| Section Three: #9 A Food Itinerary |
I am a foodie true and blue — food allows me to connect to a culture in a way in which spoken words and cultural art experiences can only give a farthing as to what fuses the people together. Food not only speaks to the heart of humanity but to the soul; taste and smell are two of our most powerful senses, and food has a way of drawing an experience full circle when you are outside your own country. I loved the idea to carry a notebook on your person whilst in Paris (and thank you for the suggestion as to which notebook brand to purchase!), as it is quite true; as you walk (as I always imagined Paris was a walking city) you’d find different places to dine. Outside of collecting menus and business cards, little jotted down notes on the fly of discovery are the next best thing to do!
I wish I had thought to do this myself in the past, to not only record the place in which my heart fluttered with the joy of what my palette danced in merriment but to write down my thoughts, feelings, and impressions of eating that particular item for the first time. To create a memory out of words rather than mere recollective glimpses of what was felt or tasted. My favourite place she mentions is the Tea Salon (A Priori Thé) as the decor alone whisked me off to it’s 19th Century furnished setting! Ideally, what I love about tea houses and/or salons, is how you can whittle away the hours lost in thought whilst being mindful of your presence through the sipping of your cuppa in your hands!
I love drinking a drink such as hot (fresh brewed) tea, hot cocoa, and/or coffee au lait as it endears you to not only be introspective at times but if you have company with you, the hours can become idle as conversation takes centerstage. There is nothing more joyful than the earnest company of a companion who is as thankful for the evolving conversation with you and where time on the clock is irrelevant to notice passing.
Oh my! I had writ down my thoughts before continuing to read DeSanctis re-telling of her perfect experience at another tea salon; clearly we are two birds of a feather on how we like to live our hours! Yes, yes — I had forgotten to mention the art of daydreaming and/or taking out the notebook and writing down a mosaic of words which could end up as a poem or portion of a story!
I was thankful to know there are other foodies out there who attempt to create an experience out of the moment in which they find themselves in a place that begs for an expansion of time and a willingness to experience a memory yet lived without being tethered down to a clock!
| Section Four: #13 Homage to Lovers |
Perhaps it was my upbringing, but one of my favourite places to visit are cemeteries, church graveyards, and other such places of rest for the deceased. The sanctuaries that are chosen for laying the dead to rest differ not only per country or religion, but for each region. For instance, my singular regret in New Orleans is not taking the tour through their most infamous of cemeteries whilst I was in the Big Easy. I appreciated reading how regular walks through the cemeteries in Paris are as commonplace as they are in certain places in the United States; where the natural harmonious nature of the walks themselves is paramount to experiencing the tranquility within a bustling city.
Statuary is an inherited interest of mine from my Da, and I must confess, whilst I was starting out researching quantum physics, statues within certain gardens of Paris played an important role in understanding the metrics of symmetry. What perked an interest for me to visit this particular collection of graves is how the visual artistry on the tombs themselves render the person who lived in such a way as to convey their true essence whilst they were alive. Most graveyard art and decor stateside is not known to reflect the image of someone who lived but rather a token of who they were or the tragedy of how they died. Little fractured bits of what they left behind to those who outlived them by giving closure and peace to their loved ones. I find it incredible that you can walk through the cemetery over there and know exactly of whom your visiting due to their carved likeness staring at you as you give your respects in solitude.
The romance of how their lives played out in both life and death was beyond captivating; I am grateful for the details and the imparting of DeSanctis’s experience of spending time at their graves. Even if some of their lives were not entirely romantic at all but rather ill-fated, tragic, or simply depressingly gutting. Life is evermore a churning tide of unexpected circumstances; in life, in death, in thought and memory, the only bits we can control are how we approach the hours in which we breathe.
| Section Five: #68 The Dreamscape of Genius |
My heart caught in my chest as I read this section, as it gave way to a unique place that is spellbound in it’s design for compelling you to visit even if the initial reason was out of curiosity to see what Thomas Jefferson saw himself; it’s allure for me was in the transition from dark to light, as the physicality of it’s setting was a mirrored impression of both sides of the physical world. I had such a startling impression of Monville I cannot wait to explore reading about his legacy through collective works on his artistry and his vision for creating an architectural confluence of idea merged into forethought of where the boundaries between physical design and imagined art can lead one man to go visually.
I appreciated reading the quotation from Colette who voiced my own inclinations on what could be found in this place that stands just outside of our realm yet is forged out of our timescape.
As I read this beautiful travelogue, my mind flitted between France and my own travels throughout Mexico and the United States (as I haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting the UK, Europe or Canada) to the brink that I originally was going to share my Top 10 favourite sections but felt my Top 5 would have equal weight in expressing this is not a book you can read through quickly; it is one that you want to cherish as you allow DeSanctis’s recollections to wash over you, entice your imagination and warm you to France in a way that perhaps you have not had the ability to have happen previously.
I found her style of inside 100 Places in France to inspire a new understanding of a country that has been written about every which way to Sunday for generations. She brings out the pulse of the people in the modern era as much as the people who shaped the France who emerged out of history itself. She gives honest recommendations on where she found a surge of inspiration from where her own feet took her and yet, she opened the door for us to either re-explore these locations for ourselves or use them as a gateway for our own self-discovery of France. To me, that is the best gift of all — to affirm a passion for a country you haven’t personally travelled to and yet, feel as though you’ve gone once you conclude the travelogue. You want to know a bit more about France, simply because she has captured your attention in such way as to say, “Oh, dear, it stopped at 100. Yes. Of course, but where would she have gone next?”
For you see, to me this isn’t a mere travelogue but a collection of short stories knitted out of experiences the author elected to share with us in order to inspire a connection to France.
My favourite excerpts from my Interview with Ms. DeSanctis:
Stories are the very nature of how we identify with each other and how we share our experiences whilst we are alive. Stories evolve out of emotion as much as thought, they can be rooted in what is tangible and seen as easily as what is conveyed by our sense of smell; how did you purport the stories to manifold inside 100 Places that would give the reader a direct impression of what inspired you?
DeSanctis responds: I’m glad you brought up the sense of smell. I have a good nose – I smell everything – and it dictates a lot my emotions and even subsequent reporting, especially when I travel. In my book, every time I’m by the sea, or under the hot sun, or I get off a train, I am aware of the air and the scents floating through it – of lavender, rosemary, orange blossom. In the north, in the winter, the smell of gorse – like citrus or vanilla – is quite heady. Scents for me are like light – it is an effect that helps cast the initial spell and tells the subtler truth about where you are. It’s a subliminal phenomenon, rather undeliberate, which extracts the poetry or the essence of a place. But everything else can inspire, too – the architecture of devotion, the majesty of green spaces. I try to convey my awe without saying “Wow!” I try to say, here is the bigger story. Sure you should go to that pretty lighthouse. But when you’re there, try to decipher the metaphoric possibilities of a giant structure whose purpose is to help mortals weather storms. They are overpowering.
I completely agree with your thoughts on how travel brings the full scope of our individual perception on life and on where our life has taken us full circle. What are some of the most important things you’ve gained by travelling through France through the portal of time reverting back into your mind’s eye?!
DeSanctis responds: The fact that I’ve had the good fortune to return to France again and again through different phases of my life gives a rare and peculiar intensity to the normal introspection that travel incites. I have walked across the Pont Neuf as a student, a young wanderer, a professional woman, a new wife, a new mother, a mother of teenagers. I have walked across with men I’ve loved, with my husband, with friends, my babies and the almost-adults they became. I’m quite nostalgic about my time there, and able to see myself very clearly as I was at the various points on this timeline. I remember a pair of tan sandals I wore during one summer, and my legs – how strong they felt as I strode along the quais. I suppose I can envision myself in the future as an old lady hobbling across the river. I hope my mind is intact so I can still conjure up my youthful self!
Be sure to read the rest of this insightful interview!
This book review is courtesy of:
I have been fortunate to read non-fiction books akin to 100 Places in France:
Taking Root in Provence by Anne-Marie Simons
Seven Letters from Paris by Samantha Vérant
and my forthcoming review of: We’ll Always Have Paris by Jennifer Coburn
Be sure to scope out upcoming tours I will be hosting with:
on my Bookish Events page!
Please take note of the Related Articles as they were hand selected due to being of cross-reference importance in relation to this book review. This applies to each post on my blog where you see Related Articles underneath the post. Be sure to take a moment to acknowledge the further readings which are offered.
Reader Interactive Question:
What do you look for the most inside a travelogue!? And, do you have a preference of style for how the journey within the country is stitched together from the writer who is revealing their own personal insights to the location(s)? Do you appreciate a diary-format such as 100 Places in France or do you prefer a more aesthetic non-personal approach? Does your mind evoke a remembrance of trips you have taken as you read another’s experiences, like mine did for me?
Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.
Historic Center of Mexico City – (en.wikipedia.org)
Zócalo – (en.wikipedia.org)
Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral – (en.wikipedia.org)
Comments via Twitter:
@JLovesAStory Thank you for this review, JLAS!
— Marcia DeSanctis (@marcialdesancti) November 7, 2014